Children on Christmas morning often hold one of two emotions:
- The euphoric feeling of tearing the wrapping paper and realizing that the toy you spent months begging, pleading, and wishing for is actually there.
- The devastating feeling of tearing off the final piece of the wrapping paper to reveal the tragic words, “Batteries not included.”
Parents often say it will be fine to play with it anyway, but it just isn’t the same. Something is missing. It may look like the toy on the box, but without batteries it’s just a piece of plastic that resembles it.
Many student ministry small groups have the same problem. They feel perpetually frustrated because something is missing. Their small group feels like the toy in the picture on the box, but it lacks the power and growth we know it should have. So what’s missing?
More often than not it’s authentic group discussion. Discussion is one of the most valuable yet undervalued aspect of a group. The most common statement I hear from small group leaders is some form of, “I’m just not a good teacher. That’s why my group struggles.” Yet counterintuitively, the best small group leaders I ever worked with were not “good teachers.” They were great discussion leaders. It’s easy to forget that asking the right questions can be as important as having the right answers. Just like batteries bring power to a child’s favorite toy, group discussion works as a catalyst for spiritual growth in several ways:
- Gauges and Guides: Group discussion allows leaders to both gauge where their group is spiritually, and guide them through the truth of scripture. Solid, intentional discussion lets the truth of scripture impose itself on the group while encouraging hearts to be open to the Holy Spirit working in them. It also allows for redirecting rabbit trails so the group spends time discussing how God’s Word applies to their lives instead of whether or not dinosaurs existed every week.
- Gives Ownership: When your whole group is engaged in discussion, they have an active role in the journey. As a child I continually asked my dad if I could steer his truck from his lap. I didn’t need to be in control, I couldn’t even reach the pedals. I just wanted to be a part of driving the car. Passively sitting and looking at someone talk for an hour tunes students out, but engaging them through honest discussion creates an opportunity for them to steer even though they can’t reach the pedals. They’re part of the process now, not a bystander.
- Encourages Honesty: At the end of political debates it’s funny how the moderators receive as much scrutiny as the candidates. Why? Because people aren’t interested in easy to answer questions and canned responses, they want to hear the closest thing to honest answers they can. Discussing solid open-ended questions in a safe environment fosters continual growth in your students over time, and works against canned answers that lack substance or depth.
- Develops Community: Few people will live out their faith with strangers, or even hang out with them for that matter. Group discussion over time builds mutual love, respect, and transparency that goes beyond your regular meeting time. As your group becomes comfortable discussing God’s Word and sharing their lives with each other, it allows them to grow beyond simply discussing their faith, to genuinely living it out with one another weekly.
- Strengthens Personal Accountability: Creating a small group culture where students know they will be lovingly guided, encouraged, and heard will quickly develop avenues and desires to seek God’s Word personally. Discussing God’s Word allows you as the leader to model how a personal relationship with Christ should continually be changing your life so students can catch on.
Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Meeting, discussing, and engaging with God’s Word drives us as believers. It allows us to encourage, protect, invest in, and help one another. Living in isolation as a believer is often deceptive. We can live in isolation surrounded by a group, alone in our homes, or connected to a small screen. We must strive to develop discussion and growth that is centered on God’s Word and how it applies to our lives. Don’t let your group be defined by the words, “Batteries not included.”
Equipping leaders and engaging students to develop Christ-centered community through solid group discussion is one of the key focuses of Bible Studies for Life: Students. Click here to download 3 free sessions of Bible Studies for Life: Students for Fall 2016.
This post was written by Ian Dunaway, Editor of Bible Studies for Life: Students